This looks like an ordinary chess piece, and I would say that it is quite ordinary, except that it was made by 3D laser sintering, or a 3D copying machine. Look closely and you will see that this rook/castle is complete with little tiny doors and a spiral staircase inside. My husband brought it home from work at Lockheed Martin and I am sure those guys/gals don’t sit around making chess pieces all day. (Well, one day they did.) Whatever they do, it’s probably classified. I have seen this machine and it takes up half a room.
This chess piece sits on my desk where I write and got me thinking about our future. I am working on a vague series outline of my WIP and I anticipate future books that will be written into the future. So I decided to look up where this technology is going.
Among others, I ran across this article on Strong Blogs posted by Michael Armstrong, May 24, 2013, and it really got me thinking about our future as humans, and where we will be in the next twenty-five to thirty years. This is a brief excerpt explaining the “bionic ear”:
“Scientists at Princeton University have designed a bionic ear that can hear better than human ears. And get this: It was printed using an off-the-shelf 3D printer. ‘The result was a fully-functional organ that can hear radio frequencies a million times higher than our human ears,’ lead researcher Michael McAlpine says.”
“The way that our ear hears now is we pick up acoustic signals and then we convert those into electrical signals that go to our brain,” said McAlpine, who is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. “What this ear does is it has this electronic coil on it and it picks up electronic signals directly.”
Creating this bionic ear was not really intended for those who are deaf or don’t have ears, McAlpine said, but rather: “The idea of this was: can you take a normal, healthy, average human and give them superpower that they wouldn’t normally have?”
What I find so very interesting about this, is that the piece was not created on some $35,000.00 machine at some high tech prototype company. It was created on a small $1000.00 machine at a University laboratory. From what I understand in another article by Michael Armstrong, is that this technology might soon be available to the average Joe, as the laser sintering patents that keep these units unaffordable will be expiring in February 2014. Also interesting to me is the fact that the “bionic ear” was exclusively created for the purpose of giving humans superpowers.
Back in the 80s, when I was nursing student, there was a TV show called The Six Million Dollar Man. The Six Million Dollar Man was an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for a fictional government office known as OSI. The series is based on the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, which was the series’ proposed title during pre-production. Lee Majors played the part of a superhero super human in a realistic crime drama. He had an eye that could see detail for miles, an arm with superhuman strength, and legs that made him capable of running at miraculous speeds. If I recall correctly, his hearing was superb, also. He was a perfect crime fighter and gave the comic book hero superman an added dimension. So this is nothing new. There are tons of other books, many written years ago, forecasting this very thing, so, not a new idea.
The new, to me, is that we are there.
When my former husband and kids watched this show, I felt it was silly and contrived, totally unrealistic. After all, I had passed five chemistry classes with flying colors, microbiology and human anatomy and physiology…anything like this would be light years down the road…wrong. It is here.
More significantly, where are we going from here?
My 91 y o grandmother in the 80s nearly fell over the first time she saw a microwave oven thaw hamburger meat without cooking it. A few years ago I gave my smartphone to a 100 y o woman who had lived in a Nursing Home for nearly 20 years, with Netflix playing. I tried to explain and demonstrate what it was. She thought it was a, “Cute toy.” Now you can actually operate your microwave oven from miles away with your smartphone. Where will we be in 25-30 years? Will we be driving electric cars with recharging stations set up in parking garages? Will we have computer screens in our coffee tables or built into our eyeglasses? Will our televisions truly project holographic 3-D images right into our living rooms that are capable of interacting with us? Will we be able to turn on, turn up, and turn off our senses? Are we going to develop a whole class of wealthy bionic people? Instead of plastic surgery for vanity, we’ll get new, improved body parts. Are we all going to be electronically “chipped” or tattooed like our pets, for safety and health, passports, credit cards purchases?They already have these temporary tattoos for less invasive vital signs monitoring in hospitals. I am not speaking of science fiction that forecasts the future centuries away or millennia away. I recently ran across something that I wrote shortly after high school, and I forecast microwave ovens, smartphones, laptops, and iPads….but I had to laugh out loud at the names I had given such devices. If you write into the future does it bother you that it might come off as rather silly to future readers?